Baseball Toaster Cub Town
Saturn's Return
2005-05-25 11:55
by Alex Ciepley

I'm not really an astrology nerd, though I'll amuse myself with the occasional horoscope, and am prone to describing myself as a classic Cancer--in both the good ways (I'm a caring friend, I take pretty photographs, and I cook a mean Thai curry) and the bad (I'm a moody bastard, I'm still bitter about third grade playground insults, and I've cried during Field of Dreams). My Moon is in Martha Stewart, and my Second House is inhabited by Oscar the Grouch.

I'm currently in the middle of something known in astrological circles as my "Saturn's Return"--it's basically a three-or-so year period in your life, usually in your late twenties, when your world gets turned upside down and as a result you, cheesy as it sounds, fundamentally change as a person. Maybe you change careers (I haven't, though I've had several false starts), homes (buh-bye Brooklyn, hello Upper West Side), or you simply become a different sort of fellow than you've been to this point. So say the wizened Internet experts:

The Saturn Return has been likened by some astrologers to our "cosmic report card" -- a time during which we are forced to examine and evaluate our progress up until this point in our lives and determine what needs to change in order for us to continue to grow. Often this assessment compels us to release some of the attitudes, possessions, and even people that no longer serve a meaningful purpose in our lives. By being able to jettison these unneeded parts of our lives, we make room for new beliefs, things, and people to come our way.

The Cubs aren't in their late 20s, though maybe baseball years--like those of the canine--are measured differently than our human ones. This is a team, though, that has seen its identity shift dramatically over the course of the past three years. For most of my life, the Cubs have been a team defined by two things: a star player, and a losing history. They had Ryno and Dawson and Gracie and Sammy. They had unexpected winning seasons, always followed with a miserable fall into awfulness. The Cubs had a good ballpark, and it didn't always matter that they were in the cellar, as long as Sandberg was leading the league in All-Star votes.

These two attributes--the Star and the Losing--no longer define the Cubs. The team has changed.

The Cubs have posted the first back-to-back winning seasons in my lifetime, and expectations are that they'll win again this year. Fans anticipate victories, and when they don't happen, the fans boo.

Gone also is the Sammy Era, the Ryno Epoch, the Dawson Years. Is there a player that defines the current Cubs? The closest you could come to finding a figurehead would be in the starting pitching staff, but there are too many mixed emotions surrounding the Big Three of Wood, Prior, and Zambrano to latch onto them as emblems. Can Wood ever stay healthy and effective? When will we stop gnashing our teeth regarding our Prior Expectations? Can Zambrano stop going postal, and--apparently more important--stop writing emails?

Derrek Lee has been heroic this season, but he's not Mister Cub. Not now, and likely not ever. Aramis Ramirez might have the most potential to fill this role, but it's still early for him, and he has yet to make a leap forward that would cement him as an icon.

But the question of who could fill the role of Star might be irrelevant. Perhaps there is no longer a need for a single player to define the Cubs. People don't necessarily come out of their Saturn's Return better, but they always come out different. It can take some getting used to. It's befuddling to follow this Cubs team with its rosy outlook and unclear identity, and I'm still trying to wrap my head around it all. But if these changes in the team's nature mean that I'll have to get used to a winner, and will end up identifying with a team and not one player, then I'm pretty sure I'll come around.

2005-05-25 14:30:57
1.   Alex Ciepley
oh, and good luck to Maddux tonight, who is well past his own Saturn's Return.

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